Nearly 4,000 hate crime complaints reported to police

Hate crime allegations against First Minister Humza Yousaf and Harry Potter author JK Rowling are among the 3,800 made in just three days, STV News understands.

Key Points
  • Police Scotland receive 3,800 hate crime complaints since Monday, STV News understands
  • The Hate Crime and Public Order Act came into force in Scotland on Monday
  • It criminalises behaviour or communications that are threatening or abusive and intend to stir up hatred against people within a protected characteristic
  • Those protected characteristics are age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or variations in sex characteristics
  • Critics claim the law is a threat to free speech and could be used by some activists to silence their opponents
  • Police dismiss hate crime complaints made against First Minister Humza Yousaf
  • Officers also confirm no action will be taken against JK Rowling over tweets criticising the new law

Police Scotland has received nearly 4,000 complaints since the country’s new hate laws came into force on Monday, STV News understands.

The force is said to have received around 3,800 reports of alleged incidents since the Hate Crime and Public Order Act came into effect at the start of the week.

It’s understood not all of these have been processed yet.

The law takes existing offences for stirring up hatred on the grounds of race and applies that to the protected characteristics of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or variations in sex characteristics.

The Hate Crime Act makes it an offence to behave in a way or send material that is abusive or threatening with the intention of stirring up hatred against someone based on these protected characteristics.

Ahead of the law coming into force, the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) warned it could be “weaponised” by an “activist fringe” across the political spectrum.

There have also been concerns about whether Police Scotland would keep a recording of all hate crime complaints as a “non-crime hate incident” even if the force concludes no crime was committed.

A Conservative MSP has threatened to take the force to court after it recorded a hate incident against him.

Police confirmed that it had received a hate crime allegation against JK Rowling over a X, formerly Twitter, post challenging the legislation.

Officers concluded the Harry Potter author had not committed any crime.

Responding to the announcement, she said: “I hope every woman in Scotland who wishes to speak up for the reality and importance of biological sex will be reassured by this announcement, and I trust that all women – irrespective of profile or financial means – will be treated equally under the law.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the UK Government is “not going to do anything like” the new Scottish legislation, as he insisted: “We should not be criminalising people saying common sense things about biological sex.

“Clearly that isn’t right, we have a proud tradition of free speech.”

Police Scotland said on Tuesday that it had received numerous hate crime complaints against Humza Yousaf for a speech he made at Holyrood four years ago.

The new also does not apply retrospectively.

The force said it had already assessed that no crime was committed when it looked into complaints preciously.

In the speech, Yousaf criticised the lack of diversity in some of the top jobs in Scotland.

On Monday, slurs relating to the First Minister’s Pakistani heritage were sprayed on the walls and fences of homes near his residence in Dundee.

Police said they would investigate the vandalism under the new hate laws.

Yousaf said the incident was a “reminder of why we must, collectively, take a zero-tolerance approach to hatred”.

On Wednesday, community safety minister Siobhian Brown revealed a “fake complaint” had been made using her name and contact details.

Police Scotland has committed to investigating every claim under the Hate Crime Act despite no longer planning to probe every “low level” crime, including some theft.

Former Rangers player turned football commentator Ally McCoist has warned he and thousands of other fans could be “committing a breach” of the legislation at this Sunday’s Old Firm derby.

McCoist said on TalkSport that he “along with 48,000 will be committing a breach of that hate Bill in the particular Rangers v Celtic game we are all going to”, branding the situation “madness”.

However, the former footballer later said a “change of plans” means he will no longer be attending the match.

Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay claimed the Hate Crime Act is the “biggest ever burden placed on Scotland’s police force”.

The Scottish Government has defended the bill, saying it extends the protections already on the books over race to other groups.

Youasf said: “If I have the protection against somebody stirring up hatred because of my race – and that has been the case since 1986 – why on earth should these protections not exist for someone because of their sexuality, or disability, or their religion?”

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